Nichols v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: November 6, 2015
  • Case #: 15-5238
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 775 F.3d 1225 (10th Cir)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act a sex offender who moves to foreign jurisdictions still has to register in the previous domestic jurisdiction.

A circuit split exists between the Eighth and Tenth Circuits’ interpretation the term “resides” as applied to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The Tenth Circuit held that a sex offender who abandons his residence to move to a foreign country must still register in the abandoned jurisdiction; the Eighth Circuit held that a sex offender is not required to register after moving to a foreign country.

Petitioner, a convicted sex offender, last registered as a sex offender in the Kansas side of Kansas City. The following month, Petitioner boarded a plane to the Philippines. An arrest warrant was issued for violating his supervised release, and Petitioner was arrested the following month. Petitioner was charged and indicted for one count of failure to update a registration as required by SORNA. The district court denied Petitioner’s motion to dismiss and Petitioner entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the conviction and held that when the Petitioner boarded a plane to the Philippines, the “change in residence triggered a registry obligation in Kansas” which was not fulfilled.

Petitioner contends that it was the intent of Congress to bring uniform registration to state sex offender registries, however, the Act is being disparately applied. The Sixth Circuit found that a sex offender who lived on the Missouri side of Kansas City was not required to register after moving to a foreign country. Petitioner argues that the plain language of the Act requires sex offenders to register where he “resides” not where he previously “resided” and Petitioner had no further duty to register or update his registration as a sex offender under SORNA while living outside of the United States.

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